Critical Mass: Fashion to Drive B-T-S Beauty Sales

NEW YORK — Back-to-school shopping list: jeans, pleated skort, argyle vest, rep-tie belt, notebooks, lip gloss and shaving cream.<BR><BR>Beauty retailers are riding on the coattails of the fashion industry this year, hoping shoppers will buy...

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NEW YORK — Back-to-school shopping list: jeans, pleated skort, argyle vest, rep-tie belt, notebooks, lip gloss and shaving cream.

Beauty retailers are riding on the coattails of the fashion industry this year, hoping shoppers will buy cosmetics and toiletries along with school supplies. “There’s not a lot of newness in beauty, but there is in fashion. So beauty marketers are linking with apparel,” explained Wendy Liebmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail.

Mass marketers plan on a robust back-to-school selling season, and beauty suppliers hope that will include impulse cosmetics purchases.

Back-to-school spending is second only to Christmas. According to the National Retail Federation, sales are expected to top the $40 billion mark this year. A study from NRF found that families plan to spend an average of $483 this year for children in grade school and high school, up 7 percent from $450 last year.

With all of the customer traffic in stores, merchants want to tempt shoppers with impulse beauty buys. Many are erecting b-t-s displays featuring beauty items.

Kohl’s is using the sales period to introduce its new everGirl collection, which includes beauty products from Townley. The advertisements show personalities of the four types of girls the collection appeals to and appropriate beauty products. For example, the character identified as a “dreamer,” an aspiring rock star, has a lip gloss packaged in a guitar shape.

EverGirl is promoted on Nickelodeon, and its message is apparently reaching the audience. “I was planning on taking my daughter to Bloomingdale’s for back-to-school clothes,” said a Long Island mother. “She asked that we go to Kohl’s instead because they have everGirl.”

Another popular marketer for young girls, Delia’s, features advertisements for products such as Skintimate shaving cream and Stridex acne medication in its b-t-s mailer. Skintimate is featured in fashion layouts as a way to achieve silky legs to complement fashionable short skirts.

Target also tied in beauty necessities with b-t-s shopping in its ad. Products including Biore, Almay Nearly Naked and Suave hair care items are positioned next to backpacks and calculators. At Eckerd, coupons are featured in the school ad for $2.00 off Revlon cosmetics and for a buy one, get one free deal on all L’Oréal face products.

This story first appeared in the August 20, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Longs Drug Stores is taking a different tactic. Rather than associate beauty with school needs, the chain is extending a beauty name into general merchandise. The drugstore chain is expanding its popular exclusive beauty line Yakity Yak into stationery, backpacks and binders. The new items will bear the same logo as the cosmetics. Yakity Yak cosmetics was created by CRL Marketing and is aimed at consumers 13 to 25 years old. Longs has the proprietary rights to the name west of the Rockies. In back-to-school ads, Longs is offering a free Yakity Yak product with the purchase of stationery items.

According to Jesse Lawrence, president of CRL, Yakity Yak has provided Longs with an exclusive brand with strong turns — at least three times the normal turns in most stores — and high gross margins. The products are merchandised on an illuminated display that helps to differentiate Yakity Yak from other brands, he said. Lawrence is also working with other companies to expand the name into related products, such as cosmetics bags.

At Longs, CRL is offering its first gift-with-purchase promotion. Along with the sale of a beauty product, shoppers can get a hard plastic container called a Stash box. The boxes are also available for purchase at $1.99. “We’re really trying to offer unique items that build loyalty to our retail partners,” said Lawrence.

Other retailers outside of Longs’ trading area are picking up Yakity Yak. Sally Yanke, director of cosmetics for Medic Drug in Cleveland, is among those impressed with the line. “The fixture allows for the product color to show through, and it isn’t loaded with inventory,” she said.

Back-to-school sales could serve as a harbinger of what is to come for the holiday season. A strong sales push could portend a much needed robust Christmas.

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